Aug 8 2012 by David Ogilvie, Stirling Observer Wednesday
STIRLING Albion’s Division Three campaign starts on Saturday when they face Annan Athletic for the first time.
Harry Cairney’s side, who joined the SFL in 2008 as a replacement for Gretna, are the visitors to Forthbank as the Binos begin life in the basement for the first time since 2003/04, with a place in the promotion play-offs their aim given the near-certainty of Rangers winning the league.
Stirling are looking to bounce back from an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Second Division Arbroath in the first round of the Scottish Communities League Cup on Saturday.
Annan, meanwhile, went down 2-0 away to Hamilton Accies but showed their ability by stunning Livingston 1-0 in the Ramsdens Cup the previous week to set up a second-round clash with Stenhousemuir on Tuesday evening at Galabank.
McDonald’s men will be desperate to get off to a good start, although seven points from their first three outings last season were not enough to avoid relegation.
Stirling edged out East Fife 1-0 on day one last year and have not conceded a goal in their first league fixture since a 2-1 defeat to Brechin in 2008/09, which was followed by 0-0 draws at home to Stenhousemuir (2009/10) and away to Morton (2010/11).
After Annan Albion are away to Elgin then face Clyde and Queen’s Park at Forthbank but assistant manager Shaun Fagan does not believe having three of the first four at home is an advantage.
The one-time Motherwell midfielder said: “We encourage the guys to play the same way whether it’s at home or away so I’m not sure that’s an issue.
“We’ve had Annan watched and I saw them beat Stenhousemuir in a friendly so we know a wee bit about them. They also like to get the ball down and pass it so that should make for an entertaining game.
“Our players can take great credit for the way they played against Arbroath on Saturday. I thought we were the better team for maybe three-quarters of the match and the work-rate was terrific.
“You are never going to boss the full match and we lived dangerously at times as well but overall I thought we passed the ball well and can be pleased with the performance.”
He added: “We created plenty of opportunities but maybe not as many clear-cut chances as we would have liked and that is something we have to work on.
“When it gets to penalties it is a 50/50 situation and it’s all about who gambles correctly. Unfortunately for us, their keeper made three saves.
“We need to look for consistency of performance when the league gets under way because that was our downfall last year. We’ve got some good players and young guys coming through but we need to be careful with them and leave them out at the right time as well.”
Kieran McAnespie made his debut at left-back at Gayfield but will miss Saturday’s match with Annan due to a one-match ban carried over from last season at his previous club Arbroath. Right-back David McClune could make his first appearance after signing from Brechin in the summer and Sam Filler and Fagan are both free of suspension.
However, Fagan is still some way from a return due to a pelvic problem. He said: “I missed most of the pre-season because of it but I’m hoping to do a mini pre-season in the next couple of weeks and if there is no reaction hopefully I can push on from there.
“Kieran suffered a clash of heads at Arbroath but that wasn’t the only reason we made the change. He was on a booking and up against a pacy winger and it was his first game so he was a bit tired. It allowed Ross McGeachie to come on and give us a fresh impetus.”
Prices for Saturday’s game are £10 for adults, £7 for seniors/students and £5 for children. Kick-off is 3pm and the referee is Greg Aitken.
The Stirling Albion office will be selling season tickets from 4-7pm tomorrow (Thursday).